3 Years by admin

Hi folks, While I've been involved in photography for most of my adult life, over the past 3 years I decided that I wanted to push myself down a more formal route.  My decision was based on the thought that studying an academic course would force me to slow down and take time to research.  Far too often, I've been guilty of just grabbing a camera and starting to shoot, without any preparation time really.


So, when I started the HND in Photography through Southern Regional College at Lurgan, I knew I was going to have to work hard to complete a varied range of modules designed to make the student really critique and evaluate the work of other photographers and then apply the same rigorous criteria to my own work.  There's noone harder on me that myself and so the whole 3 years experience was hard going at times.  Sometimes I was pushed into areas that I wasn't very comfortable with.   Product photography, architectural photography, photo-journalistic photography and many others.  I have always loved portrait photography and completed this module in Year One, long with fine art and landscape photography.


Girl with Pearls 3 by Geoff McGrath


Year One was probably the most formative of the 3 years for me. I say this because it was during this time that I found myself really pushed into an area I struggled with, due to my eyesight.  Working in the darkroom.  Now, darkroom technique is something that I've always loved, but I did find it hard as, at the time, I'd been having some problems with my eyesight (one of the joys of getting older!).

I finished with a level of work in my landscape module that did not please me and so this spurred me on to devote my summer to going out and compiling a portfolio of landscape work.  I made a lot of mistakes along the way but through this process, I ended up falling in love with photographying this beautiful country of Northern Ireland and for the past 3 years have been totally caught up with it.


Tree taken at Ballyrobert, County Down by Geoff McGrath, Fine Art & Landscape Photographer, Northern Ireland


Since that time, a passion has been growing with in me to promote the rugged beauty of this country.  It was at that time, back in 2012 that I launched this website with a view to sharing my vision with the world.  Exactly how I see this country.  I spent a number of years overseas and I think that is something that has probably made me appreciate the beautiful landscape of Northern Ireland. So, 3 years on, it is with a sense of pride and accomplishment that I think of what I've achieved. I've had commissions from private clients as well as having sold images to film companies for their sets and my work will be on the big screen some time in 2016!


The Commons as the wind picks up



This year the most rewarding aspects of the course have been Portfolio and Exhibition.  As I already mentioned, over the past 3 years, I have amassed a whole plethora of images and yet I never really had the time to actually choose which ones I thought were my best ones.  Portfolio allowed me that time and narrowing it down really made me examine them very closely.  I had received some critique about my early work which hadn't been what I had hoped to hear and for the first time I could see what they were talking about.  Some images looked good on screen but did not print well.  So another item has been added to my list of things to do.  Spend the summer reshooting a lot of my early work again.  I have since then gained a lot of experience and knowledge as well as upgrading my 15 yr old D200 camera to much newer D7100.


Tranquility over Oxford Island


I also had the opportunity to return to one particular part of Ireland which has haunted/inspired me since 2003, when I first visited it.  Connemara / Mayo.  I had photographed this valley at that time, but time and time again, I returned to look at it longing to return to photograph it when I had more time and the ability to really focus.  In 2014 Rosemary and I stopped our car and I realised that this was it.  It was only 15mins from where we were staying in Louisburg, Co.Mayo.





I love the depth of colour that I find in this beautiful country. it isn't just in the greens though. Everyone talks about Ireland being about the 40 shades of green. It is, but it is so much more than that. There is a timeless ancient quality to this land. These rocks and mountains have been here for 1000's of years. What stories they could tell.

Fine Art Irish Landscapes, Upper Doolough Valley, Co. Mayo, Geoff McGrath Photography


This area was the scene of one of the worst tragedies of the Irish Potato Famine when 1000's lost their lives trekking these hills in the worst of winter just to beg for help from overlords more interest in themselves that the people whose responsibility they were.


Fine Art Irish Landscapes, Connemara, Co. Mayo, Geoff McGrath Photography


Again the rugged landscape of Co. Mayo moving towards what is known as the Connemara Loop. This beautiful expansive land is so often forgotten and neglected by us.


Fine Art Ireland - Geoff McGrath - Country Road, Co.Mayo


I know John Denver was singing about West Virginia, but this image just reminds of of his song Country Road! I had stopped because Rosemary wanted to photograph some sheep and I happened to turn around and this scene greeted me. I've learned this past few years to "turn around" a lot. Sometimes the best views are from the opposite direction! Its good to look back and see where you have come from!


Deserted Cottage, Co.Mayo - Geoff McGrath Photography


This deserted cottage was the first thing that really grabbed my attention in Co.Mayo. The depth of colour and beautiful shades of green just captivated me.


Mussenden Temple Fine Art Northern Ireland, Geoff McGrath


Mussenden Temple was one of the first things that I photographed 3 years ago and traditionally I have preferred this work as a black and white, but after listening to some things that Matt Klowskowski had to say about Lightroom, I decided to rework many of my images and as a result was able to bring so much more out of these shots in colour.


Orlock Point, Co.Down - Geoff McGrath Photography


This was an image which I had largely ignored 3 years ago when I took it. But in Lightroom I have been able to do so much with this shot to show off the natural beauty of Orlock Point, which is only a 10 minute drive from my home in Donaghadee.


I have reached the end of this lengthy post. But I wanted to share with you finally, what I suspect is probably the first landscape that ever really etched itself in my mind as a child. This is, of course, Slemish Mountain, just outside Broughshane, Ballymena. For many years a local photographer, known mostly for his weddings and portraits had been selling a landscape of this scene and it could be seen around many shops in the Ballymena area.


(Jack Adams was one of the most prominent photographers in the area for over 40 years and is a good friend of my family. After he retired Jack was so much help to both myself and my father as we photographed weddings, often coming along on the day and his advice and knowledge were unsurpassed.)

Others have gone on to photograph Slemish in the years following, but none of them captured the gradeur and sheer majesty of the hill where Saint Patrick tended sheep, as well as Jack Adams did.


So I just want to say that what you see on this website, all started with my father putting a camera in my hand and showing me how to take photographs, but the inspiration came from the work of Jack Adams and I owe him a debt of gratitude for all of his help and encouragement to me over the years.


Fine Art Landscape Northern Ireland Slemish, Co.Antrim - Geoff McGrath Photography


And so, This June sees the end of 3 years of hard work. To mark the event, the gradtuating students are holding the Beyond Exhibition in the Millenium Court Arts Centre, in Portadown on 4th June at 7.30pm and we would love to see you there. I will have some of my pieces on display which will be available to buy or order. Hope to see you there! Please come and introduce yourself and say hello!




Doolough ~ Birthplace of a Passion by admin


Just before heading off in search of Doolough, Co.Mayo in October, I remember chastising myself that that I definitely MUST start updating my blog more frequently.   And here I sit over 2 months later.  I do know that there are those of you who do enjoy the blogs and seeing my images.  I know, because you've told me and I really do appreciate your interest in my work.  

Busyness is the bane of man I think.  We get too busy...too easily.  The problem is that unless we are very careful, the things we love are often the things that go first.  Sadly, I'm not one of those people who is fortunate to actually do what they love for a living.  My passion for photography at times has to take a back seat to the incorrectly named "necessities" of life.  I would feel most blessed indeed if I could pursue my photography full time but until those days come (if ever) I must juggle.


So, finally I get to share with you some of my images from our trip to the West Coast of Ireland.  Rosemary (Bonnie our little Cairn Terrier) and myself spent 5 fabulous days and nights there with an ample supply of curiosity for the daytime and a shed full of dry wood for the windy evenings in front of the fire.  It was a perfect little getaway.


I had visited Galway, Sligo, Mayo and Connemara 11 years ago and was captivated by its beauty.  Sadly, I didn't really have any decent photographic equipment with me and its been on my to-do list to return again to this beautiful area.


We managed to get a beautifully located cottage on the outskirts of Louisburgh and just started to explore.   About 10 minutes drive from our cottage, I found this old abandoned cottage at Tawnmackan.  It just oozed character.  I'm sure that it could have told us many stories about the people who used to live in it.



Fine Art Irish Landscape - Derelict Cottage, Tawnmackan, Co.Mayo - Geoff McGrath Photography




Back in 2003, I'd taken 1 particular photograph that I particularly loved but had no idea where it had been.   Time and time again I had longed to return to that place and photograph it properly.  Back then, it sparked in me and increasingly insatiable hunger to connect with the land...  I don't know if you are like me, but so often I just find myself stopping and drinking in the beauty of this incredible country that I have been privileged to live in.


Continuing on the R335, I couldn't believe our luck when within another 25 mins of driving around, I found that special place.  After all this time, it was even more beautiful than I had remembered it.  The sight was breathtaking.  I had come full circle.  I was back at the place where my passion for the landscapes of Ireland had begun.   The Doolough Valley.


Fine Art Irish Landscapes, A Cloudy Upper Doolough Valley, Co. Mayo, Black & White, Geoff McGrath Photography



Over the next few days, we returned every day, at different times just to see exactly how the light was falling.



Fine Art Irish Landscapes, A Cloudy Upper Doolough Valley, Co. Mayo, Black & White, Geoff McGrath Photography



This second shot of the Doolough Valley was taken at the location of a monument to the many who had died during the Potato Famine.  I found it a very moving story and felt guilty that I was only knowing this now, given that this place of beauty had been in my mind for so long.  It was a very quiet and tranquil place.  I found it very moving as I recounted the tragedy that had taken place here, how hundreds had fallen to their deaths trudging the high mountain path into the lough below, all because of the greed and intransigence of wealthy men.


However, I chose not to include the monument in my shots as I wanted to record it in its most natural form.  Of course, the road was something that I could not ignore due to the fact that it ran all the way through the valley.


It's strange that a place of such sadness and death ended up being the birthplace of my passion for Irish landscapes.



Fine Art Irish Landscapes, Upper Doolough Valley, Co. Mayo, Black & White, Geoff McGrath Photography



Further down the Doolough Valley I found another place to stop.  Just behind where I took this shot, there was a little dock and a boat tied.



Fine Art Irish Landscape, Upper Doolough Valley, Co. Mayo, Geoff McGrath Photography

If you would like to see more images from this beautiful area, please click here or select West Coast of Ireland from the Republic of Ireland Section of my website.